False Choices, or, How to Win Lawsuits and Marginalize People

[From Bloc Raisonneur]

I am interested in the Christian Broadcasting Network's take on the Newdow Pledge suit, because even though they will have a naturally built-in bias, they are a significant player in terms of niche media, and their political reporting in the person of David Brody has actually been an important point of reference during the 2008 campaign. No one expects a secular free-for-all, but serious people do look to them for serious coverage--this piece even acknowledges that George Washington likely did not use the phrase "under God" in his oath.

Of course, their website's reporting on Newdow's hearing this week is weighted heavily to the opposition, labeling Newdow as an "atheist gadfly" at first mention of his name. No surprise there. And also expectedly, for their legal analysis they turn to someone who is actively fighting the Newdow case, Jordan Lorence of the Alliance Defense Fund, whose purpose is to "fight for religious rights in court."

What interests me most is what Mr. Lorence believes would be the consequences of an unlikely Newdow victory. Unlike Rev. Joseph Lowrey, Lorence is not warning of the end of the United States, but his prediction is almost as dire (emphasis mine):

Lorence [. . .] stated a Newdow win would be tragic for America.

"If a judge were to agree with Michael Newdow that he has a right to basically expunge any Christian references from the public scene, it would be a horrendous shift in thinking about the establishment clause," Lorence predicted. "That instead of the government not forcing people to believe certain ways, it would mean that there's a right for the village atheist to silence everybody from saying anything about God in public.

"It would marginalize Christians and other believers," he continued. "It would be totally upside-down and opposite of what the founding fathers intended."

That's amazing!
Firstly, quasi-theocratic activists like to muddy the rhetorical waters a bit by deliberately confusing the meaning of the word "public." Atheists are trying to remove religion from the "public sphere" as in civil, governmental institutions. Lorence and his ilk want you to think that "public" refers to "anywhere outside your house," which of course is nonsense.

More importantly, Lorence gives us a familiarly false choice as to the outcome of the case. Either we keep things as they are, or Christians will suddenly be rendered second class citizens. The merits and wisdom of the Pledge suit are things that really can be debated thoughtfully on several different levels. There will certainly be things to consider for both theists and atheists in the case of such an unforeseen victory. But we can't have a useful discussion if Americans are lied to about the consequences.

There may very well be farther-reaching precedent set by a Newdow win, but I will go out on a legal limb and say that the mass, cultural marginalization of 90-some percent of the population, which includes virtually all of our governmental leaders, isn't really a legitimate concern.

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Comment by Frink on January 14, 2009 at 3:01pm
I've touched on this a bit too. They habitually describe implausible nightmare scenarios of what will happen if "the other side" wins. Utterly ridiculous. Then they intentionally confuse words, as you said, such as "public." It's completely dishonest and even when they're called on their dishonesty, they insist that the worst is yet to come (or the more spineless liars will say it's only a few steps away).

I wonder whether the tables would turn if Christians found out their leaders were nothing but lying assholes.


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